Biden Showing Up Strong in North Carolina – But Is It Enough?

Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 11, 2019 — Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling just released their latest North Carolina survey (Oct. 4-6; 963 likely North Carolina voters, 410 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) Wednesday, which projects a two-person race developing in the Tar Heel State as former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 39-22 percent. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg receives nine percent support, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) earns only a disappointing six percent. All other candidates fail to break the three percent level.

North Carolina is one of the Super Tuesday states, a state whose electorates will cast ballots on March 3, the largest voting day of the nominating season. On March 3, a total of 14 states and one territory will host primaries or caucuses, seven of which come from the south. It is here where former Biden would have to make his stand, since his southern numbers are the best of any candidate by a wide margin.

The question being posed is whether a sluggish Biden start in the first three voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, where he could conceivably fail to place first in any, would derail his momentum to the point of lessening his southern advantage.

Making rudimentary delegate calculations from the 19 entities that would vote on or before Super Tuesday, we find that current polling would place the former vice president in the lead on the evening of March 3, but that his delegate edge would certainly not be dominating.

To re-cap, based upon the latest polling from Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, the delegate estimate prior to South Carolina would find the former VP and Sen. Warren tied with 37 delegates apiece, while Sen. Sanders would have 27, meaning a virtual three-way tie despite Biden not winning any of the states outright. If he can stay in the hunt — with neither of his key opponents establishing themselves as a clear leader — the tide turns Biden’s way.

Moving to South Carolina on Feb. 29, three days before Super Tuesday, Biden would become the race leader because the Palmetto State is one of his strongest. Adding the SC projected delegates to the total, the new pre-Super Tuesday aggregate count would find Biden taking a sizable lead, 71-47-37, over Warren and Sanders. This model again assumes that only these three exceed the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates in the First Four voting states. Such would be the case today, based upon the latest available polling.

The 15 Super Tuesday voting states and the lone territory included that day are: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. The seven southern states hold 46.1 percent of the aggregate Super Tuesday delegate total.

Currently, based upon all estimated available data, Biden would find himself in the strongest position on Super Tuesday. The rudimentary estimated delegate count for March 3 sees Biden earning 611 of the evening’s 1,345 delegates, or 45.4 percent of the total. Sen. Warren would have 441 (32.8 percent), and Sen. Sanders’ 225 (16.7 percent).

While this would be a strong showing, it would not be enough to seal the nomination, nor would it cause the others to drop out, knowing that keeping the front-runner below 50 percent at the end of the primary season would mean advancing to a second ballot at the Democratic National Convention. That second roll call would include 766 Super Delegates and certain states with free delegations, meaning the aggregate count could begin to significantly change and perhaps lead to an open convention where all 4,744 national delegates would eventually be free to vote as they choose.

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